By Natalie Sweet
Yesterday, we discussed what Elizabeth might have been told by others about Anne Boleyn. While it was clear that there were many who would not have passed on fond memories of Anne to Elizabeth, it was equally clear that there were those who probably shared positive recollections of the Queen. Among them was Matthew Parker, who Elizabeth appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. While on the throne, Elizabeth asked Parker to substantiate the validity of her parents’ marriage. In an excellent article at The Tudors Wiki, historian Nasim Tadghighi discusses both Elizabeth’s request of Parker and her earlier assertion to Venetian ambassadors in the 1550s that she was not “less legitimate than her Majesty, alleging in her own favour that her mother would never cohabit with the King unless by way of marriage, with the authority of the Church, and the intervention of the Primate of England” (Venetian Papers, Vol. VI). I highly suggest you read it here (http://tiny.cc/dta40) as it is an excellent article, but for immediate purposes, know that while Ms. Tadghighi concluded that Anne was a sensitive subject for Elizabeth, she also believed that Elizabeth viewed her mother in a positive light and remembered her in her own private way.
I agree with Ms. Tadghighi. Anne was a controversial subject that had to be treated carefully. I sometimes wonder, however, if she was discussed and remembered more often than we assume. The difficulty in determining this is due to the lack of sources we have on Elizabeth’s thoughts and actions concerning Anne. Elizabeth certainly had her own private tributes to her mother. What we know of some of them, however, is questionable. For instance, we can only surmise that Elizabeth’s translation of Marguerite of Navarre’s “Looking Glass of the Sinful Soul” was a tribute to Anne. There is also the claim that after Elizabeth was crowned with St. Edward’s Crown and then the Imperial Crown of England that she chose to wear the Queen Consort’s crown, the one that Anne was crowned with in her own coronation in 1533. However, the crown that Elizabeth chose to wear for a majority of the day could have alternately been one that we know was remodeled for the 1559 coronation.
Still, even if the above theories are someday proven to be complete bunk (and I doubt new evidence will ever arise to provide contradiction), we have many reasons to believe that Elizabeth did think lovingly of her mother. For one, Elizabeth was more than amply surrounded by her Boleyn relatives. She did not seek to deny them; indeed, if one looks at the Privy Chamber members who served during the middle part of her reign, eighteen out of twenty-five were related to Elizabeth through her mother. Of course, this could have been a way for Elizabeth to build her own legitimacy. I would argue, however, that the favoritism she showed in one particular case demonstrates that she had a deeper than surface-level dedication to her Boleyn relatives. In the latter part of her reign, troubles with English colonization in Ireland abounded for a number of reasons, and are far too numerous to cover in-depth here. What is important for us to note is that Elizabeth favored her Butler relations in Ireland with a tenacity that bordered on imprudence. The Butlers, of course, were cousins to Elizabeth through her grandfather, Thomas Boleyn.
Additionally, it has been noted that Elizabeth’s use of a phoenix rising out of the ashes might have been meant to symbolize her emergence out of the disaster that was her parents’ relationship. One also cannot forget that Elizabeth occasionally used Anne’s falcon badge as her own emblem. Indeed, it was an emblem that others gifted to the Queen, and it is to the subject of gifts that I will turn to in the next installment. Do not think that I have forgotten about the locket ring which held Anne’s image, either; it will be discussed tomorrow!